MARCO ISLAND — So how do you show off our beautiful island to first-time visitors after you’ve arranged a fine hotel on our great beach, good restaurants and other fun, on and off the water?
Now you can show them the history of greater Marco on a colorful, easy-going, private or small group tour, thanks to Betsy Perdichizzi, Kathy Miracco and others who love the show-and tell-experience for visitors.
The tour they arranged for our friends and us was about two and a half hours, starting at the Historical Museum. We began with a short, interesting video, a primer for novices, from the fascinating civilization of the Calusas, how the Spanish explorers’ arrival changed everything and on through the decades to the Pioneers, the growth of commerce, and to the early years of modern-day Marco.
One surprise treat is that the video is narrated by one of the nation’s best-respected announcer-broadcasters, Peter Thomas, a hero of World War II, and a long-tome Naples resident.
On the tour, our friends were fascinated by the Key Marco Cat, asking where the original is and how they might be able to go see it.
Betsy then brought our historic Marco Cemetery to life, so to speak, with stories about the people interred there as part of the island’s history. We then visited the beautifully-restored Church of God.
We were fascinated with Otter Mound Park, with trails leading us effortlessly through the thousands of shell walls and mounds, hidden for generations but now a don’t-miss feature of seeing the real Marco of past and present.
We stopped at the Doxee Cottage, built by Capt. Bill Collier in 1910 and moved to Goodland in 1967. Current owner Marciano Gizzi beautifully restored the home in the past couple of years.
Another thing Betsy and her colleagues do is to connect the dots with narrative. Just one example is when they note that the Deltona developers were not the first people to make Marco a place of canals. The Calusas were doing that from the start.
Our visitors were impressed with Marco and with how Betsy and other locals are preserving it. These newcomers also got a chuckle out of the place we laughingly call Marco Mountain, that “peak” in the Estates Section which is the highest ground around at 52 feet above sea level.
Our visitors’ thoughts after the tour
We asked for some impressions from our out-of-town friends, Randy and Nancy Garrett of Frederick, Maryland, and Don and Valerie Green of Toronto, Ontario.
Nancy: “I love the passion of Betsy about the history here. It makes me want to go home and learn a lot more about the history our area of Maryland.”
Randy: “I had no idea the history of Marco is so rich. It’s an amazing place. I learned so much about the people and the challenges that Marco has faced over the years and the resurgence of Marco and its people. It’s good to see that so many people here have tremendous pride in Marco.”
Valerie: “The people are so friendly and the word beautiful keeps coming to mind. Betsy’s presentation helped me understand how the community developed and the importance of the natural environment here. Why wouldn’t everyone want to come to Marco Island?”
Don: “The presentation was relaxed and informal and we were able to ask a lot of questions. You just feel comfortable and welcome from the start. You feel like you belong here and want to return.”
What Betsy and her history-buff friends are putting together are low-key, no hassle adventure visits to some of the places that have made Marco interesting from the start. We endorse the idea as a way to create another chapter in the charm and character of this place. And (all together now) We live here!
For more information, contact Betsy Perdichizzi via email at Betsyperd@comcast.net. or call 394-6917.
Chris Curle is a former news anchor for CNN and for ABC-TV stations in Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Houston. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Don is a former ABC News correspondent and bureau chief and a former news anchor for CNN and ABC-TV, in Atlanta. His Farmer File column appears Fridays in the Naples Daily News. E-mail: email@example.com.